RogerBW's Blog

Strange Practice, Vivian Shaw 13 January 2023

2017 urban fantasy, first of its series. Dr Greta Helsing is a doctor to monsters: vampires, ghouls, mummies, and stranger things. And now a sect of murderous monks is attacking them all…

Which is a great premise… well, no, it's two great premises, and that's the problem. A story about a heroine being part of a team hunting down a threat in Hidden Supernatural World? It's been done, often, and sometimes very well, and a big part of that side of the plot is basically procedural Polyfilla, completely standard investigations and reverses. A story about a doctor to people with strange physiology, some of whom aren't alive? That's interesting and when Greta actually gets to do some doctoring the book comes alive. Alas, most of the time she's just hanging around with her supernatural buddies, each of whom is more powerful than her, each of whom is a bit in love with her.

Because of that "more powerful" bit she ends up being quite reactive, and is left behind when the men go on their raid. (Yes, she ends up coming along by a different route and Saving the Day, but that's by coincidence, nothing to do with her choices.) I also got a feeling of Kim Newman-esque aren't-I-clever spot-the-reference when it turned out two of Greta's coterie proved to be Lord Ruthven and Sir Francis Varney, though I can't draw a connection between Fastitocalon here (who "used to be a demon") and mythic referents of that name.

There are logical errors (if the "Rosary killer" preying on humans is meant also to be the monks, as is hypothesised once and assumed to be correct thereafter, why are their patterns completely different?), and Greta fails to tell her co-workers about the threat to all of them for no apparent reason except so that she can feel bad when one of them gets attacked. Everything gets resolved by deus ex machina rather than by anything Greta, or even anyone else, does.

There are some lovely moments here, like Ruthven having learned to make latté art because he was bored and had time to practice, or the Devil's taste in cigarettes, but it ends up feeling like too much rich sauce over scraggy meat.

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Series: Dr Greta Helsing | Next in series: Dreadful Company

  1. Posted by David Pulver at 02:46am on 15 January 2023

    I proposed something like that to SJ Games (clinic for monsters) around the same time period (2016-2017), but they didn't go for it. I've since seen an anime series suggest something vaguely similar (Monster Girl Doctor or some such excuse for lechery) but a more serious urban fantasy on that topic by an author with some good medical fu does sound cool...

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